Men’s Tennis: Northwestern splits with Louisville and Duke on weekend road swing


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Junior Nick Brookes takes aim against Illinois State. The Cats failed to win a match Sunday against Duke.

Patrick Andres, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

A busy weekend for Northwestern men’s tennis brought mixed results, as the Wildcats cruised to a 4-1 victory over Louisville before suffering an emphatic 4-0 loss at the hands of unbeaten Duke.

On Friday, NU met the Cardinals in Louisville with an eye toward repeating their successful 2019 voyage to the Bluegrass State. Where last March’s meeting between the two teams was a nailbiter — the Cats had to win four of six singles matches after losing the doubles point — NU had no such trouble Friday.

“We know Louisville well, our teams play every year,” coach Arvid Swan said. “They’re always competitive in matches. The biggest thing for us was, (freshman) Natan Spear came in at three doubles and impacted the doubles point in a really positive way.”

Sophomore Steven Forman, the only NU player on the day to both complete and win two matches, continued a strong start to his Northwestern career. The Michigan transfer teamed with Spear to rout David Mizrahi and Alex Wesbrooks 6-2 in doubles before knocking off Sergio Hernandez in singles in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4.

“We’ll continue to see Steven make strides,” Swan said in assessing Forman’s performance. “He’s so determined and focused on the court, and he does all the other things to make everyone around him better.”

Seniors Dominik Stary and Chris Ephron beat Louisville’s Tin Chen and Matthew Fung to give the Cats the doubles point, and sophomores Simen Bratholm, Forman and junior Nick Brookes brought the proceedings to a quick end, with Bratholm joining Forman as a straight-set winner.

A fine Friday performance from NU gave way to a bleak Sunday, however, as a powerful Duke team won a 4-0 shutout that represented the Cats’ first match without a point since March 2019 at Illinois.

“I was really impressed with Duke. They put together a really good team,” Swan said. “The doubles point came down to a couple points that didn’t go our way. If you lose the doubles point, you want to take that momentum back right away, and that didn’t happen for us.”

Indeed, NU trailed 1-0 early on in Durham, as the Blue Devils’ Spencer Furman and Luca Keist dispatched Stary and Ephron 6-0. The potent Spear-Forman duo responded by taking down Edu Guell and Michael Heller 6-3, but Nick Stachowiak and Sean Sculley captured doubles supremacy for Duke by edging out Bratholm and Brookes, 7-5.

Behind the eight ball for the first time since their last loss to NC State, the Cats couldn’t pick up any singles wins, with Bratholm coming the closest. The Norwegian led Andrew Zhang 7-6 (5), 4-1 when Sam Rubell beat sophomore Trice Pickens to clinch the match for the Blue Devils.

NU’s three-state, two-week excursion will continue this weekend, as the Cats head to Lexington to meet Kentucky and Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State University. The Cowboys handed NU a 4-2 defeat a year ago, while the Cats’ last Wildcat warfare with Kentucky resulted in a 6-1 win in 2016.

“Looking ahead, it’s all about getting better,” Swan said. “We’re obviously being tested earlier in the season. We’re gonna have to play well in all phases to win. For us, we look at it as an opportunity.

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